Iron is perhaps one of the oldest and most common materials on earth. Man has been using it for various things for at least 5,000 years.
It is found in the inner and outer core of the Earth’s crust and is mined like many of the Earth’s minerals.
Raw iron is unrefined, which means that it has not been purified or cleaned. Even though iron is a common element, in its pure form it is quite rare.
The only pure form of iron is found in fallen meteorites. On earth, iron is found mixed with other minerals and elements, and needs to be separated through purification.
The chemical compound of iron is the symbol Fe (which stands for the Latin term of iron, “ferrum”). Its atomic number is 26.
The earliest uses of iron were during the Iron Age around the 12th century in Ancient Greece and 6th century in Northern Europe. During this time, man produced most of his weapons with iron and steel for hunting purposes.
Iron has a variety of different properties like carbon, silicon, and a small amount of manganese and is considered rather cheap to produce commercially.
The process of removing iron and refining it is called ‘smelting’ and there are three ways of doing this. One is to make steel.
The most common item made out of iron is steel. Steel is made from a combination of iron and carbon. The carbon content in the material gives it strength.
The resulting steel is over 1000 times stronger than the iron was in its pure form.
The most common way of making steel is by an oxygen furnace where pure oxygen blows through melted iron to lessen the amount of impurities in it.
During this stage sometimes, other metals are added to change the consistency of the iron. Stainless steel, which is used for medical operations, is produced at this stage.
Iron in its original form reacts with water and oxygen which results in rust damage.
To prevent rusting, and preserve the material the iron is painted, coated with plastic, or coated with zinc (galvanized).
Puddle iron is a type of wrought iron, which has a lower carbon content to steel.
The entire Eiffel Tower and in fact most of Paris is made from puddle iron. Wrought iron is not manufactured much any longer because steel is far stronger.
Many buildings, vehicles and other structures have been built with various types of iron, like steel, puddle iron, and stainless steel.
Did you know that even the human and animal body has iron content? Iron in the body carries oxygen in the blood in the form of haemoglobin.
If there is a low level of haemoglobin people are considered anaemic, which is an especially serious condition in women.
To ensure that the iron is at a healthy level in the body we have to eat iron rich foods like chickpeas, tofu, red meats and beans.
In plants, iron is present in the form of chlorophyll, which helps the plant to photosynthesize (the process through which is produces food).
Even though iron is an important mineral, when it reacts with peroxides it is very poisonous and can damage the human DNA, which leads to illness and even death.
Just like in many other natural compounds that are used for industrial purposes, the waste products of iron can be quite toxic.
Scrap iron (and steel) is recycled in steel plants. Parts that do not get recycled turn into rust and return to the ground.